In the magnificent ancient capital of Nanjing, with a population of more than 8 million people, it sometimes can be surprising to see smaller pockets of congestion when compared to similarly sized cities all across the world. While much of the credit goes to smart city planning and the prevalence of scooters and bicycles, another critical factor in reducing traffic congestion and transporting residents and visitors alike is its efficient public transportation system, and most importantly the Nanjing Metro subway.
Considered to be the fifth largest public transportation system in China, the Nanjing Metro first opened in 2005 and currently operates seven subway lines across more than 135 stations. With a system length of 260 km or more than 160 miles, the Metro is also one of the world’s longest subway systems, and even surpasses the lengths of other prominent international cities like Berlin, Paris and Tokyo. With an expected annual average ridership approaching nearly 800 million passengers, the Nanjing Metro represents nearly half of the use of public transportation services in the city and according to the Nanjing Bureau of Statistics Service, is growing in popularity and a vital form of transportation for many travelers.
For the visitor accustomed to using subway systems like Paris and Tokyo, it shouldn’t be difficult to get around the city and see the most prominent cultural attractions, such as Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum and the solemn Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. On the other hand, for the visitor who has limited or no experience riding a major subway system, it could be a challenge to ride the Metro subway trains unless some time is spent understanding the system map, how to ride and the ticketing system. With that in mind, the following are some helpful tips on how to take the subway, where to go and how to pay for riding.
The Subway System Map
Much like many of the world’s major subway systems, the Nanjing subway system map features multiple routes which are identified by both its Line (route) number (eg. Line 1, Line 2) and by its color code, (eg. Line 1 blue, Line 2 red). Also like other subway systems, each of the Metro’s subway lines is an end-to-end route, with a starting and ending point, and with multiple stations name in between. This type of system makes it easy to figure out the direction of travel in order to get from one destination to another, even without being familiar with the name of each subway station.
Take for example the Red Line 2, which shows on the system map that there is an ending point at Youfangqiao to the south and Jingtian Road to the north. If a visitor wanted to visit the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum from Olympic Stadium East via the Red Line 2, that visitor must determine the direction of the subway line and in this case would be northward towards Jiangtian Road. The visitor must then stay on the subway train through several stations until reaching Xiamfang/Dr. Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum station. A simpler example to understand is taking the Green Line 3 southward from the Nanjing Railway Station (in the East Mozhou Road direction) to Confucius Temple/Fuzmiao station.
Still, getting around the city from one spot to another may require the use of transferring to another subway line. Say the visitor is getting on the subway at the Nanjing Railway Station and wants to go to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall. This would require the visitor to take the Blue Line 1 southward towards China Pharmaceutical University but getting off at the Xinjekou station. Then the visitor must transfer to the Red Line 2 southward and get off at the Yujin Road station. After taking the number 2 Exit, the visitor would then walk west.
A more detailed explanation of the Nanjing Subway, the system map, its respective subway lines and bus service can all be found via the official Nanjing Metro website or more importantly for English speaking individuals, the user friendly ChinaTravelGuide.com and even Wikipedia, which is particularly useful. Further information may be obtained in person at visitor centers and the concierge service at local hotels.
The Fare Structure
Also similar to other major subway systems, the Nanjing Metro has a ticketing or fare system that is based upon the actual distance being traveled. In other words, the fare will be higher for a longer trip, such as beyond eight subway stations. But the public transportation service in Nanjing and throughout China is far more affordable in comparison to the aforementioned systems of Berlin, Paris and Tokyo, as well as most of the other subway systems in the world.
Depending upon the length of stay and amount of service needed, a visitor can purchase one or more single ride tickets or a Nanjing Public Utility IC card for multiple rides. For simplicity purposes, the visitor can purchase single ride tickets with coins or ¥5 or ¥10 bills at vending machines located in subway stations. The tickets typically cost 2 yuan or about 29 cents for trips under the length of eight stations, while longer distances cost 4 yuan or 58 cents. Conversely, if the visitor wants the ease of taking multiple trips, the Nanjing Public Utility IC Card that can be purchased for a refundable fee of 25 yuan or $3.62 and refilled at service outlets, some subway stations or designated convenience stores.
When passengers use an escalator at a subway station, they typically stand on the right or ascend on the left although the policy is now considered outdated since January 2017. Nevertheless, experienced riders tend to adhere to the conventional rule.
The Nanjing Metro generally operates daily between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. The frequency of trains departing stations is typically between three and 10 minutes although the S8 Line may take between 14 and 29 minutes.
The direction of travel for each subway line will available on overhead signs in the station and identified by its end point or terminus.
When a subway train arrives, passengers should try to take the first available seat or hold onto to a metal rail or grip if standing. All passengers should be mindful of their belongings and remove backpacks off their back or other bulky items to allow for more room for everyone on board.
Top Attractions Listed By Subway Line & Station
A list of 10 of the most important attractions in Nanjing. All links have been revised or shortened for convenience and easier readability
Confucius Temple /Qinhuai River
Located in the very popular Qinhuai Scenic Area, the Confucius Temple was originally built along the banks of the Qinhaui River in 384. But the structure was destroyed in 1034 during the Song Dynasty and at a time when China was considered the most advanced society in the world. Rebuilt shortly thereafter, the temple survived through the Ming Dynasty and the Qing Dynasty which ended after the establishment of the Republic of China in 1912. The current temple dates back to the 19th century and remains a place of worship to the iconic Chinese philosopher Confucius, who died in 479 BC, during the Spring and Autumn period.
Green Line 3 – Confucius Temple/Fuzimiao station
Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum (Purple Mountain)
The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum is the final resting place for the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty. The mausoleum dates back to 1381 and was partially reconstructed in the mid-19th century. Visitors must not miss the breathtaking pedestrian walkway to the mausoleum, known as the Sacred Way, a 1.1-mile paved pathway featuring enormous statues of animals like camels, horses and elephants. One of the most photographed spots in Nanjing, an excellent time to visit the Sacred Way is during the peak of the fall colors season.
Red Line 2 – Muxuyuan Station or Purple Line 4 – Gangzicun station
Nanjing City Wall
Built during the Ming Dynasty, the Nanjing City Wall is of the largest city walls in China and once the longest in the world. Taking 21 years to complete, the City Wall originally surrounded the ancient capital in an area covering 55 square kilometers or more than 21 square miles and reaches a height between 14-21 meters or 46-67 feet. Today, most of the 600 year old wall still stands and continues to be one of the most culturally important attractions of Nanjing.
Green Line 3 or Purple Line 4 – Jimingsi station
Nanjing Niushoushan Cultural Park
First opened in late 2015, the Nanjing Niushoushan Cultural Park is one of the newest and most popular attractions in Nanjing. Located in an area that has been home to more than 30 Buddhist temples dated back from the Southern Dynasty to the Tang Dynasty, the site is considered to be one of the most important Buddhist sites of worship in the country and contains a wealth of treasures and breathtaking attractions. This includes the massive Usnia Palace, estimated to cover 136,000 square meters and a graced with lavish artwork, most notably the fascinating Chan Interest Garden and the suitably named Thousand-Buddha Hall.
Blue Line 1 to Ruanjian Dadado. Transfer to bus route 754 to East Entrance of Niushou Mountain Station
Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall
The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall is a moving tribute to the estimated 300,00 local residents who died during the worst atrocity of the Second-Sino Japanese War in 1937. Completed in 1985 and further extended 10 years later, the site covers an area of 28,000 square meters (302,400 square feet) and features several sculptures on the grounds, as well as a significant number of artifacts within the memorial and perhaps most importantly, contains one of the mass burial grounds of that tragic event in history.
Subway Line 2 – Yunjin Road station
Nanjing Sports Park
First opened in 2005, the Nanjing Sports Park was built for the second Summer Youth Olympics, attracting young athletes from all over the world during the summer of 2014. Covering an area of more than 400,000 square meters or 4.3 million square feet the massive facility features a 61,443-seat multi-purpose stadium, a 13,000-seat gymnasium, 4,000-seat aquatic complex and 4,000-seat tennis center.
Red Line 2 – Olympic Stadium East
Built during the Ming Dynasty to be a royal residence located near the Ming Palace, which was imperial palace in the 14th century and when Nanjing was the official capital of China. More recently the Presidential Palace was used as the Office of the President of the Republic of China from 1927 until the current presidential office moved to Taiwan in 1949. Now known as the China Modern History Museum since the late 1990s, it is the largest modern history museum in China.
Red Line 2 or Green Line 3 – Daxinggong station
Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum (Purple Mountain)
Quite possibly the premier attraction within the Purple Mountain Scenic Area, the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum is the final resting place of Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the first president and founding father of the Republic of China.Completed in 1929, the magnificent mausoleum rests at the base of the second peak of Mount Zijin, also known as Purple Mountain. In order to reach the mausoleum, visitors must be able to climb nearly 400 stairs located just beyond the grand entrance of the Mausoleum Gate.
Red Line 2 – Xiamfang station
One of the most famous lakes in Nanjing, Xuanwu Lake is one of the most popular daytime destinations in Nanjing for residents and visitors alike. With a circumference of 15 km or 9.3 miles, the lake is encircled with a pedestrian walkway and typically filled with lively group fitness classes in the mornings and sightseers young and old all day long. The lake also features several sculptures, pagodas, temples, dining options and even a small zoo.
Blue Line 1 – Nanjing Railway Station or Xuanwu Gate
Also known as the South Gate of the Nanjing City Wall, Zhonghua Gate is known as the largest, castle-style city gate in China. Likely the most visited section of the City Wall, the South Gate features stone ramps and steps, allowing visitors to reach the top level pathway, with its sweeping views of the Nanjing city skyline.
Related: Best Luxury Hotels in Nanjing China
About The Author:
Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer who has covered national/international travel for CBS Local and all things San Francisco for CBS San Francisco. He is a Media Fellow of Stanford University and a member of the Freelance Council of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW).
He is a lifelong resident of Santa Cruz County, in California.